COVID-19 immunisation in social media: unconvincing Ministry of Health against Medvedchuk and anti-vaccination campaign

Ukrainians perceive everything in a political context: therefore, the topic of vaccination is discussed, first of all, in the context of "whose this vaccine is". Ukrainians try to scold or praise the government in this regard. At the same time, the Ministry of Health has no decisive influence on information flows, and all the meanings are formed by other figures: pro-Russian media, anti-vaccination community and little-known but popular channels. When it comes time to start vaccinations, this can create significant problems.

Before the global vaccination campaign against COVID-19 began, discussions about this type of disease control became extremely relevant. In Ukrainian society the dominant contexts for discussing vaccination have been the Russian vaccine, the development of Ukrainian vaccine and the effectiveness of Western analogues. Significant politicization of many discussions has been a feature of the Ukrainian mediafield. Against the background of powerful information campaigns to promote "Sputnik V" and the idea of ​​creating a Ukrainian vaccine, which was carried out with support of media and government, anti-vaccination sentiment was weaker. However, during the studied period users actively spread fakes and messages of supporters of conspiracy theories in social networks. The most active opponents of vaccination were priests and private entrepreneurs. Representatives of avant-garde professions actively undertook to popularize vaccination: doctors, scientists, educators and IT specialists.

We studied media landscape of vaccination topic on social networks during three autumn months of 2020 in two sections. First, it is the discourse of opinion leaders and the big media, and second, the discourse of ordinary social networks users. All posts containing the words vaccination (and synonyms) and COVID-19 (and synonyms) in the text part were found on social networks. 

Two samples were formed from the obtained search results. The first consists of thousands of posts on social networks (Facebook, Vkontakte, Odnoklassniki, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram), which had the most coverage. These were not necessarily accounts of well-known media or well-known opinion leaders in the "core" of Ukrainian Facebook: the sample also included unknown users in the mainstream, who, however, are insanely popular and have tens and hundreds of thousands of subscribers. The second sample consists of two thousand posts randomly selected from all mentions of vaccines and vaccinations on social networks.

In subsequent coding, attitudes toward vaccination were generally separated from attitudes toward Russian, Ukrainian, or any other vaccine. Thus, if message contained opinion that the Russian, Ukrainian or Western vaccine was bad, but in general the vaccination was useful, then such a message was considered in favor of vaccination. However, if there was no second message, we considered that such a judgment is negative, because it creates a negative information background around the vaccination topic.

OPINION LEADERS MESSAGES IN SOCIAL NETWORKS ABOUT VACCINATION
OPINION LEADERS MESSAGES IN SOCIAL NETWORKS ABOUT VACCINATION
OPINION LEADERS: THOUGHTS ABOUT VACCINATION
OPINION LEADERS: THOUGHTS ABOUT VACCINATION

Various aspects of vaccination were discussed on social networks, mostly in neutral contexts. However, information campaigns on Russian, Ukrainian, and Western vaccines have had a significant impact on vaccination perceptions. A significant feature of opinion leaders emotionally colored messages is that they did not have a positive or negative thoughts of any vaccine, but a specific one. Pro-Russian opinion leaders mostly have a positive attitude towards Russia vaccine, while pro-Ukrainian leaders have a negative attitude towards it. In general, the sample is dominated by pro-Ukrainian opinion leaders, they have generated more emotionally colored posts.

Pro-Russian media and analysts on YouTube have been very active in the general discussion of the benefits and harms of vaccine, trying to prove the ineffectiveness of the world's vaccines, their harmfulness, in particular, using unverified information and frightening fakes. Against this background, they were probably supposed to show the effectiveness of the Russian vaccine, but often this message was lost among intimidating people and forming in them a prejudice against any vaccine against COVID-19.

VACCINATION IN POSTS OF ORDINARY SOCIAL NETWORK USERS
VACCINATION IN POSTS OF ORDINARY SOCIAL NETWORK USERS
THOUGHTS ABOUT VACCINATION IN POSTS OF ORDINARY SOCIAL NETWORK USERS
 THOUGHTS ABOUT VACCINATION IN POSTS OF ORDINARY SOCIAL NETWORK USERS

Compared to the posts of opinion leaders, the posts of ordinary users were more often subjective and emotional. This is due to the fact that the ordinary users disseminated less news reports and expressed a more personal attitude to vaccination.

While pro-Russian publications did not openly denounce vaccines, but often advertised Russian vaccines, pro-Russian users wrote much more negatively about vaccination: their criticism was more emotional than that of pro-Ukrainian ones.

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